SCHOOLIES HEALTH WATCH

Par­ents urged to come clean on kids as cri­sis wors­ens

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - KIRSTIN PAYNE

MEDICS are steeling them­selves for an in­crease in teens suf­fer­ing a men­tal health cri­sis amid the par­ty­ing at Schoolies.

Fes­ti­val or­gan­is­ers are urg­ing par­ents to re­port if their grad­u­at­ing chil­dren have men­tal health is­sues to help pre­pare a spe­cial unit set up to look af­ter them.

Luke Lindsay, who heads the Gold Coast Health acute care treat­ment team at Schoolies, says that, based on trends, the men­tal health re­sponse unit is ex­pect­ing an in­crease in num­bers need­ing care.

Mr Lindsay said the team con­ducted 89 full men­tal health as­sess­ments on stu­dents dur­ing the fes­ti­val last year – a 41 per cent jump on 2016.

As­sess­ments in­cluded stu­dents in cri­sis, seek­ing in­ter­ven­tion be­cause of sui­ci­dal thoughts, ex­hibit­ing er­ratic be­hav­iour or in men­tal distress.

“We are also see­ing an in­crease in over­all pre­sen­ta­tions at the cen­tre, of 20 per cent year-on-year,” Mr Lindsay said. “Men­tal health is a vi­tal part of the Schoolies com­mu­nity safety re­sponse and this year we are look­ing to in­crease the early in­ter­ven­tion.”

As part of the ap­proach the Gold Coast Health team of psy­chi­a­trists, men­tal health clin­i­cians and Al­co­hol and Other Drugs staff wanted in­for­ma­tion on at-risk school leavers be­fore they ar­rived.

“Last year we saw around 90 peo­ple who pro­ceeded to a full men­tal health as­sess­ment. These are of­ten sit­u­a­tions where they are in­tox­i­cated, dis­tressed and a lot have pre­ex­ist­ing men­tal health con­cerns,’’ he said.

“We are try­ing to push the col­lab­o­ra­tion with the guardians, so we can be aware of men­tal health con­cerns when they present. That way we will also have a point of con­tact with some­one at home and the abil­ity to link in af­ter.”

The sui­cide of a schoolie in 2012 shocked many at the time but Mr Lindsay said de­spite the party at­mos­phere, it was not un­com­mon for the team to as­sess and as­sist stu­dents who were hav­ing sui­ci­dal thoughts.

“The build-up to the week can of­ten lead to a huge amount of pres­sure on stu­dents,” he said.

Spe­cial­ist care will be avail­able 24 hours a day, seven days a week dur­ing Schoolies, with peak times be­tween 6pm-2am. The team can could be con­tacted on 1300 MH CALL (1300 642 255).

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